ACA.supremecourt.070419

Scripps Broadcasting Holdings has agreed to pay a $1.13 million settlement with the Federal Communications Commission for not properly monitoring lights on its television towers, including one in Kaplan that was struck by a small plane in 2018, killing two people.

The FCC's enforcement bureau announced the settlement Monday.

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Scripps acquired the television towers along with several television stations, including KATC TV3 in Lafayette, from Cordillera Communications in 2019.

According to media reports from August 2018, a Piper Cherokee plane struck an 1,800-foot tall KATC tower in the Kaplan area of Vermilion Parish, killing Todd Sampson, 45, of Seabrook, Texas, and his daughter, Caylee Sampson, 6. The collision caused the Kaplan tower to collapse.

A news release from the FCC states that the enforcement bureau did not find evidence connecting the 2018 plane crash in Kaplan with any FCC rules violation by Cordillera, but the bureau found irregularities with the company's compliance with FCC rules for television towers. The FCC widened its investigation and found problems with Cordillera's monitoring at other towers regarding lighting, maintenance of records about lighting failures and notification of the FCC of ownership changes with two towers. The FCC found "numerous, sometimes longstanding irregularities in the monitoring of the lighting system for the Kaplan structure," a consent decree states.

The FCC entered into a consent decree with Scripps for failing to conduct daily inspections of its lighting systems on 10 antenna towers, for failing to properly log 12 lighting failures at seven towers and by failing to notify the FCC that it had acquired two structures.

The problems, according to the consent decree, were found at structures in Montana, California and Kentucky, as well as Kaplan and Branch, Louisiana.

Scripps agreed to the $1.13 million civil penalty and agreed to implement a compliance plan to prevent further violations.

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Email Claire Taylor at ctaylor@theadvocate.com.